FROM THE HEART 3to17 April

St Patrick's Day should get you in the mood for a hooley, but the best is yet to come. Book now for the Barbican's Irish festival

When Donal Lunny vows that he's going to "make people dance" at the From the Heart festival, he's likely to succeed. One of Ireland's most innovative musicians and respected producers (he has been dubbed "the Quincy Jones of Irish music", but wonders whether Quincy Jones would ever have heard of him) - his influence is evident from last year's Common Ground album. One of the best of the recent "Celtic" compilations, Lunny bagged his wish-list - stars such as Bono, Elvis Costello and Kate Bush - to rework traditional songs. None of his big-name fans refused his invitation to join the Barbican programme either, which Lunny rightly calls "one of the biggest celebrations of Irish music and arts outside Ireland". The ex-Planxty member and his new Wheels of the World band - joined by Hothouse Flower, Liam O' Maonlai - will open the festival with Lunny's beloved "Irish music with a big motor"

(4 Apr, 7.30pm). He also

appears with Sinead O'Connor the following weekend, but it doesn't stop there. Lunny is promising lots more special guests during the festival; bearing in mind his place at the centre of the current fusion of Irish traditional music with contemporary, global styles, you can take him at his word.

VAN THE MAN

Irish music is featured in the Green on the Screen season, which features Van Morrison in Ireland, the 1980 music-doc of the legend by Il Postino director Michael Radford. 6 Apr

FILM

The Irish film industry is booming, and recent years have seen the work of more and more home-grown talent, and varied visions of contemporary Irish life, reaching a wider audience. The Green on the Screen film festival features the best of the old - Man of Aran, Mise Eire - and the most exciting of the new, such as the opening gala film, Last of the High Kings, starring Gabriel Byrne (3 Apr 7.30pm); Cathal Black's acclaimed film of John McGahern's Korea; Trojan Eddie (far left) starring Richard Harris and Stephen Rea (17 Apr 8.45pm); mini-season tributes to Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan and Roddy Doyle; and previews of Gold in the Streets (5 Apr 6.45pm), and Snakes and Ladders, with Sean Hughes (12 Apr 6.15pm).

FOYER EVENTS

If you want to do your jigging and reeling in wide open spaces, the Barbican foyer and Guinness bar will be home to free, nightly sessions by some of the most talented, and boisterous, Irish musicians on the circuit. Among them will be the hotly-tipped Four Men and a Dog (below), didgeridoo/squeeze box duo Stephen Cooney and Seamus Begley, traditionalists Tamalin, harmonica player Brendan Power, and singer-songwriter John Spillane. You may want to bring some supplies: it could be a while before you find your way back home.

MUSIC

The recent Woman's Heart compilations illustrated the range and depth of Ireland's female talent, and some of the best will be enchanting audiences in April. Sinead O'Connor - backed by Donal Lunny and special guests - and the versatile Mary Black, need little introduction, but a wonderful showcase features a raft of young, exciting talent: the irrepressible, Cajun and reggae-influenced accordion-playing of Sharon Shannon, the fragile folk of Sinead Lohan (right) and the perfect pop of 19-year-old starlet Naimee Coleman. Mary Black 6 Apr 7.30pm pounds 10-17.50; Sharon Shannon, Sinead Lohan, Naimee Coleman, 11 Apr 7.30pm pounds 8-14; Sinead O'Connor 12 Apr 7.30pm pounds 10.50-20.

ART

The visual arts strand of the festival includes the silverware of Cara Murphy (below left), part of the Barbican's Metalanguage series, and the interactive artistry of Maurice O'Connell, who'll be putting his energies into discovering and explaining what the Barbican, and the general notion of cultural centres, is all about in the fifth of the Cell series of commissions. Metalanguage: Cara Murphy, today to 13 Apr; Cell 5: Maurice O'Connell, from 26 Mar to 13 Apr

PAUL BRADY

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady (above) has collaborated with Mark Knopfler and Mary Chapin Carpenter, has had songs covered by Tina Turner and Bonnie Raitt, and frequently receives accolades from the likes of Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. A "musicians' musician", he tours infrequently, so the Barbican offers the best chance to experience his unique blend of folk, country, R'n'B and pop without getting muddy at the Cambridge or Glastonbury festivals. With their blend of tradition and contem-porary sounds, Altan provide the rollicking and reeling support. Paul Brady & Altan, 5 Apr 7.30pm, pounds 8-14

AND THERE'S MORE

The festival also includes weekend workshops exploring the musical interactions between Ireland and the emigrant communities here and in America, and Irish storytelling and puppetry for children. Chamber group Concorde will put the work of Ireland's poets to music at St Giles', Cripplegate (7 Apr 7.30pm pounds 7.50/pounds 5 concs) and John Cage performs his Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan's Wake (St Giles' 11 Apr 6.30pm pounds 5/pounds 4 concs). Composer Michel Silleabhin and the Irish Chamber Orchestra perform his new score for the 1925 film Irish Destiny (12 Apr 12 2.30pm), and later perform more of his work at St Giles' (12 Apr 6.30pm pounds 10/pounds 8 concs)

FOOD

If pints of the black stuff, available at the late-opening Guinness bar, are not akin to meals in themselves, top Irish chef Richard Corrigan will be rustling up Irish-themed gala menus at the weekends, and equally scrumptious menu du jour during the festival. Searcy's Restaurant (bookings: 0171-588 3008), gala nights 4, 5, 11 and

12 Apr

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